Painstaking organization and in-person campaigning paid off again for Ted Cruz on Saturday as he nailed down all 14 delegates up for grabs at the Republican Party convention in Wyoming. The result leaves Donald Trump facing yet another loss in a string of defeats in Western states.
Saturday’s sweep for Cruz follows his victory last month in Wyoming, when he scored 9 of 12 available delegates at county conventions. Trump and Marco Rubio each won one delegate last month in Wyoming while one remained undecided.
Trump still leads the overall delegate race. The AP delegate count: Trump, 744; Cruz, 559; and Kasich, 144. Needed to win: 1,237.
Cruz was the only candidate to address the convention in Casper on Saturday, promising to end what he called President Barack Obama’s "war on coal" if he’s elected. Wyoming is the nation’s leading coal-producing state.
Trump largely bypassed the state. In a telephone interview Saturday on "Fox and Friends," he said: "I don’t want to waste millions of dollars going out to Wyoming many months before to wine and dine and to essentially pay off these people, because a lot of it’s a payoff, you understand that?"
Trump’s defeat in Wyoming follows his shutout earlier this month in Colorado, where he failed to pick up a single delegate of the 34 in play. He has urged his supporters to protest the results to state officials in that state.
Campaigning in New York on Saturday, Trump said, "I guess I’m complaining `cause it’s not fair to the people." In Wyoming and Colorado, he said, "the people never got a chance to vote."
Cruz, in an interview with The Associated Press after his speech in Casper, said Trump’s decision not to campaign in Wyoming is telling. "The reason he decided not to show up is he recognized he couldn’t win, he couldn’t earn the support of conservatives in Wyoming," Cruz said.
Cruz has benefited from a deep, grassroots campaign effort in Wyoming, where the state GOP machine has detailed rules for the delegate selection process. Ed Buchanan, a former Wyoming House speaker, has served as chairman of the Cruz campaign.
"It’s just great to have the support of the Wyoming voters," Buchanan said after the delegate selection was announced. "They share Ted Cruz’s conservation principles, and that’s why we’re successful today."
Clara Powers of Wheatland spoke for Trump on Saturday. She told the crowd she has three grandchildren. "I do not want any of them working with next-generation science," Powers said. "I do not want my grandchildren to believe in evolution. I do not want my grandchildren thinking that global warming is more important than our national security."
On the issue of coal, Wyoming has seen hundreds of coal industry layoffs in recent months as several of the nation’s largest coal companies have filed for federal bankruptcy protections.
Calling America, "the Saudi Arabia of coal," Cruz promised in his speech to roll back federal regulations he says hamper coal production. The Obama administration recently imposed a moratorium on new coal leases.
Wyoming and other states, meanwhile, have mounted legal challenges in recent years to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations tightening emission limits on coal-fired power plants.
"Hillary Clinton promises that if she’s elected, she’s going to finish the task and bankrupt anyone associated with coal," Cruz said. "I give you my word right now, we are going to lift the federal regulators back, we are going to end the war on coal."
Obama, in announcing the restrictions in 2014, said carbon emission cause health problems and contribute to global warming. "For the sake of all our kids, we’ve got to do more to reduce it," he said of emissions.
Cruz, however, told the AP that he’s "not remotely" concerned that rolling back federal restrictions on coal could contribute to an increase in global warming.
"The war on coal is driven by an ideological extremism on the part of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and today’s modern Democratic Party," he said.
On other issues, Cruz drew applause for promising to protect gun rights and turn federal lands in the West to the states.
Cruz told the crowd he was "pretty sure, here in Wyoming, y’all define gun control the same way we do in Texas — and that is hitting what you’re aiming at."
On the Democrats’ side, Hillary Clinton detoured Saturday from a weekend of big-dollar fundraising in California to pitch her plans to raise the federal minimum wage and refresh her criticism of rival Bernie Sanders in advance of Tuesday’s New York primary.
The former first lady told a cheering crowd at a Los Angeles rally Saturday afternoon that if elected, she would push Congress to lift the $7.25-an-hour federal base wage.
Clinton’s remarks echoed her statements at Thursday’s Democratic debate in Brooklyn, New York. The former senator, who previously endorsed a $12-per-hour federal minimum wage, said she would also sign legislation raising that level to $15.
"People end up in poverty. We need a living wage," she told the audience at Southwest Los Angeles College. She credited California for recently enacting the nation’s highest statewide minimum wage — $15 an hour by 2022.
The focus of Clinton’s swing through California was a pair of big-ticket fundraisers with actor George Clooney, with some donors agreeing to raise or donate six-figure sums.
In response, Sanders’ campaign is running an ad in California contrasting his average donation — $27 — with Clinton’s fundraising. Clinton has been more reliant on traditional fundraising, while Sanders has raised the bulk of his money online.
Facing a string of competitive contests with Sanders, Clinton depicted the Vermont senator as favoring the gun lobby over crime victims, while saying she would push for stronger background checks for gun buyers.
Clinton faces a tough test with Sanders in California, where an independent Field Poll released this month found Clinton with a 6-percentage-point lead, with 12 percent of voters still undecided.
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